Like many I watched the red sea of poppies slowly fill the Tower’s moat and on one cold night in October when the installation was about half completed I joined many others watching as a full moon rose above the battlements of this iconic military building.
It was this remarkable juxtaposition – the cold hard walls of war dwarfing thousands of red spots each representing a lost life, with a pure white moon illuminating the scene.
[I]t was that experience that persuaded me to buy a small reminder of this representation England’s past. Having duly ordered my Poppy I almost forgot about when a text message alerted me to the impending arrival of my little piece of history. Upon opening the box a whole wave of emotions hit me. Outside it looks like any other white parcel, but when you lift the lid you are given a glimpse of the Tower with its cascading poppies printed on the underside of the lid.
The ceramic poppy is surprisingly large, just fitting into the palm of your hand, about the size of a human heart, which of course is exactly what it represents.
Another analogy could be drawn from the soil still left sticking to the fixing washers enclosed. Could that be likened to the mire of the Somme trenches?
A small booklet is enclosed which gives a history of the artwork entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red and gives details of the charities that will benefit from the sale of the poppies. For me, one story stood out above all the others and relates to a remarkable coincidence.
Arthur James Fisher was one of the million men wounded or killed during the First World War at the battle of the Somme. Shot in the right arm on 31st July 1916, Arthur survived but struggled with his injuries for the rest of his life.
Exactly 96 years later, on 31 July 2012, his great-grandson Flight Lieutenant Lance Levin was shot in his right arm while piloting a helicopter rescue mission in Afghanistan.
Lance is still serving, but required several operations and has been supported by Help for Heroes. Being injured on the same day as his great-grandfather is nothing more than an extraordinary coincidence but, as he says: “If it can happen to my great-grandfather and to me, it will happen to many more generations to come who will need our support.”
Originally I was going to plant my poppy in the garden, but now I think what it represents with its imperfect form and striking bright red colour this symbol demands a more considered resting place. But where?